Do you ever have the feeling that you are alone in the world? Everyone else is off having some party to which you weren’t invited? They are all more successful than you, have more friends, more fun, more everything?
Or, do you sometimes sit alone and imagine millions of other people sitting alone too? Do you wish you could somehow get them all together, to feel connected, part of life?
Yeah, I do all of that too. And you know what? The first one is a lie, because of the second. But when we believe the first, we don’t notice that it can’t be true. Both even seem true at the same time.
This is our fundamental challenge as human beings. We have the most complex mind of any of the earth’s living creatures – and we use it mainly to hurt ourselves and others. We hold beliefs that contradict each other and we fight both sides. Sometimes we find other people to fight with instead of fighting ourselves – so we argue about politics or religion or even (if we are a teenage girl) about which “ship” is best in a television series. (A “ship,” for those unfamiliar with teenage girls, means the two people you want to get together. So, if the term had been around in the days we all watched Friends, “Ross-Rachel” would have been a “ship.” It can also be a verb, so you could have “shipped” Rachel and Joey.)
Someone blocked me on Twitter this week. My crime was possibly trying to explain a complex political issue to her, or it may have been that she thought I’d voted one way last September and when she realised I hadn’t she decided I was no longer worth the effort. This person first arrived in my timeline when she commented on a tweet about a post I’d written and later in the week she joined in some conversations. At first I genuinely thought she wanted clarity on some issues, and did my best to explain. It was only after several tweets that I realised she wasn’t remotely interested in facts. I’m not sure what she was interested in, but at a guess it was trying to make herself feel better than the people she put down. (From other people’s comments she has this same type of argument a lot.)
It seems immensely sad how often we use this complex human mind of ours to attack others, to put them down, to defend ourselves, to try to be something other than we are, to attack ourselves, to tell ourselves we’re not good enough, to divide. It all comes from one simple belief – we are separate from everything else in life and we need to protect ourselves from everything else.
This morning I was thinking about that, and I realised that without this belief in separation life looks completely different. What if all the things I think I should be don’t matter? What if I am part of Life, and that’s enough? Some months ago, I saw an image of birds flying in formation – not just the usual V shape, but like a giant spider. Or web. (It may not even have been birds.) I’ve tried a number or searches to try to find it, but without success. The point of the image was that viewed from space, what seems to be hundreds or thousands of separate beings looks like one. This is true on a smaller scale too – a tree has hundreds of leaves, but looked at from a distance they are all one. A beach is made up of millions of grains of sand, an ocean is trillions of drops of water: all one.
So, why would I think that I should be different than I am? Why would I think that you aren’t doing exactly what you should be doing? Do I have any proof that our lives aren’t exactly as they should be, fitting into some larger pattern we can’t see? I’m not talking about God here, though you could include that. I just mean that, for all I know, my contribution to humanity is exactly what it should be. And so is yours.
I write about my Dad a lot, but with good reason. He showed me that you don’t need to be conventionally “successful” to touch people’s lives. I have no idea of the exact effect he had on the many people he met in his last few months of life, but I know he did affect them. One nurse told my sister they’d grown far too fond of him – in fifteen days. I sometimes think of our lives’ encounters like jet trails – they dissipate yet the molecules that made them are still somewhere in the atmosphere, or may even have drifted down to earth.
And so it is that we step through life as if in a dance – one moment feeling separate, alone against the world; the next moment feeling connection, belonging. What changes? Not our circumstances, just our thoughts. I had a thought a few days ago that I was lazy. I have this thought quite often, and mostly it bothers me. Or at least it did. I used to have the thought and then think I had to do something about it – deny it, disprove it, or punish myself because it was true. Rush into action. Do something, anything, to make me a better person.
Then I realised – I could simply let the belief go. I don’t need to do anything about it, and I certainly don’t need to give it any meaning. Sometimes I maybe am lazy – so what? Other times I’m not. That eternal contradiction, that eternal duality in life.
Lizzi Rogers started Ten Things of Thankful, a blog hop to promote gratitude, almost two years ago. This weekend is the hundredth hop. I haven’t joined in every one, but I do when I can. Cultivating gratitude helps us feel connected with one another, with our planet and with life. Perhaps you can tell that although I haven’t as yet used the word much in this post, it is infused with gratitude. I am thankful for the realisations I had this morning, and for the ability to express them – however inadequately – here. It’s not false modesty to say the expression is inadequate; it’s just a fact. Words cannot really convey what I mean, though if you intuitively understand them in the way I mean, then you will probably feel something similar to how I do now. Words aren’t perfect, but they are one of the best ways we know how to connect.
We can feel grateful – if we dare – for all the thoughts that float into our minds. Not because they will make us better people, but just because. I felt grateful when I noticed the thought, “I’m lazy.” I felt relief. Because it no longer felt like something fixed and true. It was simply a way I’ve tried for years to motivate myself. The odd thing is – it’s never worked.
If this seems a bit weird, well maybe it is. But I’m quite happy to be weird. Thankful even. I’d rather be weird and happy than normal and miserable. It astonishes me now, to think how much of my life I wasted on trying to be normal. What exactly is “normal” anyway?
My weirdness began several years ago when I read a book about forgiveness. It really kicked into touch when I read another book (Loving What Is)about questioning your thoughts. Of course, I always knew that some things I believed might not be true, but it hadn’t occurred to me before that most of them might not be. Or that it was my beliefs about life that caused my pain, not life itself. One hundred thank yous is nowhere never enough to describe the gratitude and relief I feel for having learned to ask:
- Is it true?
- Do I absolutely know it’s true?
- How do I react when I think that thought?
- Who would I be without that thought?
Sometimes I’ve used these questions to beat myself instead of to grow self-love. That was because I believed I had to improve, to be better, be more. I learned a few more questions, relating to letting go of feelings rather than thoughts: Could I allow them? Welcome them even? Could I let it be okay to feel fear, depression, anger? Could I let them go? No, no, no. And yet, yes. And then, could I notice how personal all this feels? Allow that even? Could I notice that it seems as if the thoughts and feelings are me? How it seems as if I let it go I’d disappear?
The thing that fascinates (and pleases) me the most is that I don’t have to try to change my thoughts when I ask these questions. In fact, it works far better if I don’t try. By “work” I mean stop feeling that I have to improve and be good and all that jazz, and instead see that I already am enough, you already are enough, life already is enough.
That’s something to be very thankful for.
We step through life as if in a dance: one moment separate, the next moment connected. Tweet
This post is part of the Ten Things of Thankful 100 blog hop. If you would like to read more posts, or to join in with one of your own, click the button below.